fell in the ocean.
became one with it.
ocean disappeared to the last drop.
that became i.

My Story

i have come not to teach but to awaken : meher baba

when avatar meher baba's body was placed in his tomb in meherabad, india, everyone remembered his statement that within 70 years it would become the greatest pilgrimage place on earth. he lay in state for seven days, the first week of february, 1969. during that week it rained so hard in the holy city of mecca in arabia, that two meters of water around the ka'aba prevented pilgrims from approaching. never in its nearly 4000 year history as a center for pilgrimage had such a thing happened there.

now the air around meherabad fairly rains with inspiring stories of the avatar's life on earth, how he lived and worked and what he said -- stories that bring the juice of life to dry and weary hearts. many are told by those who actually lived with him and experienced them personally. these miracles of love and awakening did not stop when the avatar dropped his body. pilgrims continually add new ones, amazing odysseys of how they came to baba, tales of divine love in action, healing, protecting and revealing the truth of god's omnipresence.

for me it was a long road to that hill and up between those delicate neem trees finally to lay my head on that marble stone in thankfulness for a life of miraculous awakening and allow at last the comforting tears of gratitude to flow. i can't say when or where it began, but i can say that i first noticed the road with a great shock in february, 1954, on my 15th birthday, when i realized with chilling certainty that nobody around me knew the truth. not my father, not my mother, not my teacher, not the policeman, not the politician, not the priest, not the artist. nobody. i had never even heard of anybody who knew the truth. everybody i had ever seen was lost in a fog of opinions and theories and small satisfactions.

i understood then to the very depths of my consciousness that if i were ever to know the truth, i must discover it myself. i put away childhood and gave my entire life to the search. everything was relevant. there was nothing that i did not need to know. anything could give a clue and reveal truth. i knew also that i would be a writer in my life, in order to express my findings to others, and i began in earnest to study and practice writing.

my life reversed its direction. it became intensely focused and full of purpose. schools, which previously had been only irritations, suddenly became opportunities. they required only that i meet their requirements, a few rules and class assignments, and in return they gave me the use of their library and contact with people whom i could question. And most importantly, hours of free time every day for my own reading and investigations. my parents, involved in their own lives, took little interest, which gave me the very important support of freedom from hindrance.

an essay about the japanese attack on pearl harbor, which i wrote because my family and i were there at the time and it was a personal trauma for me, was noticed by a friend of the great american poet ezra pound, who took me to meet him. at that time, grandpa, as we called him, was incarcerated for political reasons at st. elizabeth's mental hospital in washington, d.c. i continued to visit him on weekends until his release in 1958, attempting to drink in his vast knowledge of all cultures and epochs of human history, savoring the wealth of intimacy he shared with great world figures of the time, hemingway, t.s. eliot, tennessee williams, and innumerable others. the greatest of the many gifts he gave me was the vision of a truly great human being, which completely exploded the puny limitations of what i thought the human potential to be, and therefore my own potential. a man could understand ten languages, a man could know the entire history of world cultures, a man could write a dozen books, a man could teach something to a whole generation, as pound taught a whole generation how to write poetry in english, a man could stick to his principles and refuse to compromise his truth for the convenience of anyone.

pound directed my attention to the ancient greeks, particularly to homer. socrates became my personal idol, because of his calm devotion to truth. i went to college and inconveniently made a woman pregnant. she became ill and i had to drop out of college to support her. i chose to do my military service, four years in the navy. when i came out, the marriage broke up and i returned to the university. when i finished there, i immediately got a well paid job in public relations in new york city. after six months i knew that it was not my destiny to sit around an office writing press releases. i wanted to write poetry.

i made my way to greece, where for the first time in my life i felt at home, with nothing more pressing to do than write. i had completed the four basic karmic involvements of my youth, which were university education, military service, marriage and a well-paid job. sitting in front of my typewriter day after day, watching my mind, writing down a few words or lines from time to time, without realizing it, i was meditating.

soon i began to go through changes and receive the benefits of meditation. there came one enormous afternoon around christmas, 1966, when the energy began streaming up my spine and i experienced overwhelming beauty. all i could do was mumble "it's so beautiful, it's so beautiful" over and over again. suddenly all the historical and scientific information that i had taken in during the previous twelve years integrated into one sensible wholeness, my mind became free of tension and i realized that the truth is god.

what a shock transformation! in all my investigations, i never for one moment considered god or read a book about god, other than the bible as a cultural source, not as truth. it never occurred to me to give a moment's thought to god. and then in a flash i knew that all my search had been for god. i realized that the whole of human history is the story of humanity's search for god, though mis-presented to mankind as merely a political and cultural story. i recognized christ to be the self of each and every individual, including myself, and his life to be the model of the life of self on earth. it became very clear that all events in my personal life, those which i viewed negatively as well as those which i viewed positively, were perfect and necessary in order to bring me to this point of realization. negativity toward my parents and others simply evaporated in that perfection. knowing now the truth to be god, the burning question then became "who is god?"

those who love god, become god : meher baba

at this point i began for the first time to save and collect the poems that i wrote, and desktop publish them in limited editions for my friends. in the course of time this work has produced about a dozen small volumes.

within a few months, the colonels took over the government in greece and established a repressive regime, forcing foreigners to stay off the streets. in those days, many hippies were passing through athens on their way to and from india. my house became a kind of underground meeting place. one day a young man named chris jagger, brother of mick jagger of the rolling stones, pulled a small blue pamphlet out of his jacket pocket and said, "let me spark you!" he opened it at random and read a short quote, which i recognized to be words of truth. it was sparks from meher baba, a collection of teachings published in london just a few months before. this is how baba taught me his name. but i didn't know how to distinguish him from any other saint, yogi, guru, maharishi, satguru, avatar, or whatever on the spiritual scene. i wasn't interested in him. i was interested in the buddha, the fully enlightened one.

on the track of the buddha i traveled slowly overland to india and found my way to bodh gaya, the place of the bodhi tree, where lord buddha sat and achieved enlightenment. i was staying there as a guest in a small tibetan monastery across the river, which at that time of the year is a dry sand bed, when meher baba dropped his body on january 31, 1969. i certainly remember that day. i got up very early in the morning in order to leave for the train station which was about 8 kilometers away. i had just enough money to ride a tonka, a horse-drawn taxi, to the station. it was glorious riding slowly away from the sacred tree in the morning coolness. i was intoxicated by the symbolism of the place and of this very unusual road with a desert-like spread of dry sand on one side and forest on the other. when i got to the station i suddenly remembered that i had neglected to return a borrowed book, a collection of teachings by yogi chen of darjeeling. i felt bound by a sense of responsible discipleship to return the book to its owner.

i walked 10 kilometers back to my friend's residence. the sun climbed higher in the sky, baking the dry sand and road. i was bitterly disappointed in myself and irritated that i had created such a stupid situation to ruin the end of my visit to this sacred place. finally i found my friend, and opened my bag to give her the book and i didn't have it. it was on her shelf. i was shocked. my mind broke and i fell into great confusion. i couldn't understand what was going on or what it meant. i returned through the late afternoon sun down that road of stark contrasts back to the train station, this third time in a state of hopeless desperation as my mind raced, trying to understand or explain what had happened. that was the day that the avatar left his body.

the buddha was my guru. i never looked for another, though of course i met a number of them in india as i traveled around, real ones, false ones. i did my meditations as i understood them through my inner guidance, living with a friend, david, mostly in remote places, caves and cabins, surviving on the barest minimum of money sent by a friend in holland from time to time in the form of $10 bills concealed by carbon paper in letters. we could live for a couple of months on $10.

i began the intense study of homeric greek, the odyssey, knowing that there is an important message in it, which could only be perceived in the original language. i sang and chanted it every day, using translations in the beginning to learn the vocabulary, not caring much about grammar. following my inner guidance i became silent, not using my voice for two and a half years except when singing homer. for a few years afterward, i maintained silence for about six months each year, from thanksgiving (25 november) until easter. as years went by, the song sank in deeper. my whole being vibrated with homer's majestic dactyls while my mind puzzled ever more intensely to understand the meaning of those strange adventures with gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants, sirens, troll women, and so on, that leads through fairytale lands eventually to homecoming and peace.

unfinished karmic business with my father, my son and women in general drew me back to the west, first to greece for a few months, to cushion the culture shock. in order to continue singing and meditating in solitude, i took a boat to the island of ios and crossed over the hills on foot and found a very fine cave. as i took my seat, i noticed a book with a beautiful rainbow colored cover wedged in the rocks. it was beams from meher baba on the spiritual panorama. with that cosmic book of explanations, so elegantly and lovingly presented, he captivated my mind and began knocking on my heart. but i was still very busy with homer, singing and puzzling as i returned to the usa to visit my father after nearly 15 years and reconnect old links with him that had long since fallen into disuse, some going back as far as the japanese attack on pearl harbor, which had seriously damaged our family. my mother had in the meantime died. efforts to contact my son were blocked by his mother.

although it was an exciting time spiritually to be in the usa, with gurus visiting from all over the world, native american teachers and shamans coming in from remote locations and offering their teachings, and american gurus arising in their own ways out of the rapidly changing society, men and women like da free john, steven gaskin and elizabeth claire prophet, the intensity of meditation and singing and writing poetry in solitude continued for me. a new friend appeared, with whom i established a relationship. she would bring food every second weekend, sometimes driving two hundred miles each way. while wintering over in a teepee in the georgia forest, the desire arose in me through a vision of the buddha to go to meher spiritual center in myrtle beach, south carolina, a place of pilgrimage established by meher baba in the 1950s, and ask him to be my master.

my friend and i drove to the center for a weekend. i was in silence at the time and felt uncomfortable when i found out that meher baba had been silent his entire adult life, some 44 years, as though people were thinking that i was copying the master, trying to be a little master. my silence seemed to separate me from the two grand ladies who managed the center for baba, though i met them briefly with a nod and handshake. there were many small cabins nestled among pines and semi-tropical trees beside a lagoon near the atlantic ocean. in one of these cabins, meher baba sat during his various visits and received devotees and gave interviews. his chair remains there as the center of his spiritual energy, and pilgrims often go in to imbibe the intensity of love that he placed there for them. as soon as i was alone in the cabin i asked baba, as if he were sitting in the chair in front of me, to be my master. to seal the request, i touched each of my seven chakras to the arm of the chair.

there were people at the center who had been on pilgrimage to india, and i listened to their stories with great interest, but never did it dawn on me to go there.

my friend returned to atlanta, georgia, and i went to a very remote cabin in the blueridge mountains of north carolina. it was early in spring, and quite cold at that altitude, raining every day. the front of the cabin had been pulled away by hunters and used as firewood to keep warm. it was very open to drafts, and i passed the days lying between blankets in a back corner of the cabin, singing and writing and doing my meditations.

on the night of the full moon in may, 1976, i realized that i was finished with the odyssey, that even though i did not yet understand it in a discursive way, the message had thoroughly penetrated my consciousness. in an inner symbolic ceremony i imagined burning the book in the moonlight at the top of a spectacular waterfall near the cabin. a great open space was thus created in my mind, and in that space two weeks later, on the day of the new moon, appeared meher baba, radiantly loving, dignified and authoritative, yet personal and approachable.

many times in the course of his years of silence meher baba said that someday he would break his silence and say the one word that you most want to hear. on that day he said the very word i wanted to hear. he said, "one," meaning you and i are one. he made me realize that there is only one self in the universe and that he is that self and i am that self and in fact every individual in creation is that self. there is only one "i am," and no matter who says it, it is the same "i am," and that "i am" is god. meher baba is god, i am god, all are god. despite all appearances of diversity in the world, only god really exists.

i came to understand that he is the avatar, which is the manifestation of god in human form for the purpose of communicating god's truth and love directly to humanity as well as to the other kingdoms of nature. he explained that real spiritual life is in the living of it, not in beliefs, knowledge or theology, that god cannot be understood, but god can be lived. he revealed that he had arranged my previous awakenings and that it was he who had appeared from time to time in my meditations, guiding me both as christ and as the buddha. for nearly three days only one single thought cycled continuously through my wonder-stunned mind, "self is god, self is god, self is god."

the question "who is god?" answered, a new question arose: how does one live who knows "i am god?" in order to answer that question, baba sent me out of solitude back into the fray of worldly life with instructions to establish normal relationships with the rest of society and develop a way of making my own living and taking care of myself.

within a few days my friend arrived with the news that she had lost her job in atlanta and she was leaving immediately for houston, texas, and was i coming along or not. less than a week later we arrived in houston.

as my mind emerged from its state of fixation on "self is god," every part of me that was unable to accept the realization of "i am god" broke loose and struggled to survive. i was in a state of disorientation and upset, with a great upswelling of negative emotion. i begged baba, please don't make me write or tell people that i am god. in this part of the world people get locked up in insane asylums who talk like that. no one would ever understand.

a friend invited me to santa fe, new mexico, providing a plane ticket. the struggle still raged within me, and one morning at her house the tears came uncontrollably. i wept like a baby and re-experienced my circumcision, when i had contracted into a firm "no" toward life, which was the root of my negativity. as a three day old infant i wanted to die, and my throat closed up and breathing stopped. i died. the doctors rushed me to the operating room and took out my tonsils and pushed tubes into my lungs and brought me back to life, but not back to the will to live. i rejected life and i rejected my mother, which disturbed all subsequent human relationships with both women and men.

i could not complete the regression experience and weep those long frozen tears at my friend's house, so i borrowed her van and drove into the sangre de christo mountains and parked in a remote place where i could allow all the negativity to arise unhindered. it took twelve days before i could reverse the "no" and come away with a very firm "yes" to life.

i returned to houston. i had no way to support myself and i was still silent for long periods of time. an artist friend convinced me to pose for her, and i began a five year career as an artist's model, silent work requiring body acceptance, where i could exercise great creativity and at the same time remain intensely concentrated in meditation while making a living.

as a result of the release of the circumcision negativity, relationships with both men and women were undergoing rapid change, especially emotional growth toward genuine intimacy in my unmarried-couple relationship. because there was not enough money in modeling and i was no longer maintaining silence, i became a language instructor, teaching english to southeast asians, ethiopians and other refugees. this job allowed me to be a host and pour back into humanity my gratitude for its hospitality to me during my years of travel.

not satisfied with my intimate relationship, i broke it off and moved into my own apartment, very happy to live alone. i had a few casual sexual contacts, and one morning a woman called and said she was pregnant. my karma closed around me like stone walls. i had created an insoluble problem for myself; i could not truly relate intimately with the woman and be a genuine father to the child, i could not just walk away and ignore the situation, and i did not have sufficient income or career opportunities to support a family. at another level, i had destroyed my credibility as a responsible person spiritually and i had displeased my master by ignoring his instructions to have no sex outside of marriage. all of the negativity which i had suppressed nearly 30 years earlier -- when a similar thing had happened and i had gone into a very painful marriage and had to leave school and enter the military and experience the even deeper pain later of breaking off relationships with both the woman and the child -- stormed to the surface of consciousness, pulling my mind to pieces.

i was utterly defeated, my life an incomprehensible mess and my self respect totally destroyed. i could only put my forehead on a picture of my master and beg him to forgive me and make sense out of my life. i thought about suicide all the time, going through all the possibilities and deciding exactly how i would do it. my mind boiled over in angry curses and continually examined every situation for its suitability for suicide. i became very thin and unable to sit still, walking in circles for hours praying and asking baba for forgiveness. then for the first time i thought of going on pilgrimage to baba's samadhi in india. after eleven months i realized that god forgives and loves me but that i would not forgive or love myself, and the pressure began to ease. though i could no longer make sense of my life, it had purpose and direction, which was to go on pilgrimage to the avatar's samadhi and thank him for his merciful forgiveness and love without which i could not allow myself to live.

finally, in october, 1988, the long road of my life had come to the foot of meherabad hill and i was walking the last few hundred meters. meher baba said that for 100 years after he drops his body, he will be present in his samadhi, and entering it would be just like coming into his physical presence. as i stepped in, my heart was pouring out all its pain and confusion and frustration at his feet. in my haste to come to baba, i had neglected to put a handkerchief in my pocket. i wiped tears and snot on my sleeves, while the woman on duty with a supply of tissues for such emergencies did not notice me. my long hair was sticking all over my face and strings of snot hung from my nose. baba replied very sweetly and simply in my mind, "don't worry, i am always with you. i will never leave you." his love flooded my heart with comfort, healing the anguish and bringing peace.

i remained nearly six months, hearing many stories of other pilgrims' roads to baba -- a favorite subject for conversation there -- and listening to many stories from the avatar's human life told by his sister, mani, his personal companions, eruch and bhau, as well as many others who were with him in various capacities and participated in his life. all these stories reveal aspects of the personality of god -- his power, his love, his humor, and his very superhuman quality of responsible playfulness. it became clear that god is present with everyone all the time, and when a person begins to have a conscious and genuine relationship with him, either directly or through one of his avatars or masters, his presence and activity increases dramatically. what god wants most from human beings is to be remembered, appreciated, loved and obeyed. then things really begin to happen.

when sitting in the presence of god, questions fade away and criticisms disappear in the universal perfection of the divine plan unfolding in worldly creation. the human struggle with personal influence, ideologies and religions, though tragic and full of pain, lovingly expresses the activity of divinity breaking through illusions of separation and coming to recognize itself in each and every being. while tragic and painful, the process is also full of comedy, laughable exaggeration and humorous incongruence, resulting ultimately in wisdom, love and freedom.

i came away from the samadhi, traveling to oslo with my wife, a norwegian i had met and married just before going on pilgrimage, with an inner instruction from the beloved. he gave me the practice of avoiding to cling to any opposites whatsoever in mind, neither to good nor to bad, but rather to recognize all such opposites as false. we established a small baba center, meher baba kilden, where we show his videos, circulate his books, have meetings and make ourselves available to those who evidence interest in him. i practiced avoidance of clinging to opposites. marriage offers many challenges, particularly in the area of personal power struggles, winning and losing in the game of being right or wrong, and the need to have influence over each other. i clung to my practice rather than to any opposites.

on the morning of september 6, 1989, which is avatar zarathustra's birthday, as i sat quietly remembering god, suddenly i perceived the all-pervading ocean of oneness, which is the nondual reality of absolute unity, and i saw myself fall into it and dissolve and become one with it. a veil disappeared and the inner unity of all things and beings became clearly visible behind the cover of duality. the mind's habit of establishing a firm viewpoint which divides the real unity into apparent duality, and affirming or negating the opposites thus created in imagination, became clear, as well as the process of projection, exactly as in a dream, by which illusion appears to emerge from reality as a solid creation. immediately i began writing eternal perfect beloved, a book of poems describing the indescribable, so to speak, and expressing gratefulness to beloved avatar meher baba for merging me into himself and revealing his omnipresence both within the entire creation and beyond it.

when many becomes one
and one becomes none,
many becomes one with none
and only the beloved remains.

eric solibakke
september 9, 1990
1990, 1999 © eric solibakke

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